‘Abysmal’ NI politicians too stuck in past, says ex-Clinton aide

Nancy Soderberg suggests too many people in Northern Ireland take peace ‘for granted’

Nancy Soderberg was Bill Clinton’s deputy national security adviser

A senior aide to former US president Bill Clinton has accused unionists and nationalists of an "abysmal abdication of leadership" and of being "far too stuck in the past, making progress vulnerable and even reversible".

Nancy Soderberg, who was Mr Clinton's deputy national security adviser, looks back on the Northern Ireland peace process in an article in today's Irish Times and complains that too many people in Northern Ireland take peace "for granted".

She says “the two communities remain far too focused on the injustices of the past”.

She is scathing of the inability of Northern politicians to build on what was achieved, complaining of an “abysmal abdication of leadership”.


“Good leaders would be able to recognise the righteousness of the other side and step forward to compromise and build a more prosperous future,” she writes.

“Good leaders would get past the flags, parades and the legacy of the violence of the Troubles and work together to attract investment, technology, and build the best schools which are no longer segregated.”

Compete and thrive

Ms Soderberg adds: “It’s time to get beyond the past and build a Northern Ireland that can compete and thrive in the 21st century.”

She has also recounted how the late former taoiseach Albert Reynolds notified her in advance of the IRA statement that was issued 20 years ago this month.

She writes of how she was adamant a Sinn Féin request for a visa for "one of the most notorious IRA members", Joe Cahill, would be refused in August 1994.

She adds that in early August 1994 she had “frankly given up” hope of an IRA ceasefire.

She explains how the Clinton administration felt let down that almost eight months after taking the risk in January that year of granting Gerry Adams a visa to visit the US, there was still no ceasefire.

In August she was under considerable pressure to grant Cahill a visit, at one stage bluntly responding to yet another request from the US ambassador to Ireland Jean Kennedy Smith: “No Way! Let us see a ceasefire first.”

Advance look

This in turn resulted in Mr Reynolds contacting her and providing her with an advance look at the IRA ceasefire that was to come on August 31st.

She writes: “Rather than the usual murky and heavily caveated statements, the IRA statement clearly stated it would implement a unilateral ceasefire. President Clinton soon approved the visa. We held our breath.”

Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty is the former Northern editor of The Irish Times